To Guard the Innocent

Niabi, daughter of Jvelto and Sharess, was the goddess of fertility. Within her was the power to bless humankind and animals alike with the miracle of childbirth.
Unfortunately for the mortals, Niabi was a willful and mercurial goddess. For no other reason than her own amusement. she often denied children to those who desperately desired them, while visiting others with dozens of unwanted offspring.
This offended her half-sister Maralah, goddess of birth and children. After watching the neglect and abuse which many of the children of the world suffered, Maralah went to Niabi and begged her to only grant offspring to those who would nurture and care for them.
"Please," Maralah begged. "Only give children to good people who want them."
Niabi, who was rather plain and mousy-looking, had always resented Maralah for her great beauty.
"No," she said flatly.
"Sister, why won´t you help? The innocent are suffering."
Niabi shrugged. "If everyone had kind parents, all the mortals would grow up to be too much alike. It´s more interesting this way."
"Yes. You get the few abused children who grow up to be kind and good in spite of it all. Others become bitter, angry and down-right evil. Some just end up crazy, which I think is especially fun. You never know what they´ll do next."
"That´s horrible!" Maralah cried. She begged Niabi to reconsider, but her sister would not be moved.
Desperate for help, Maralah went to Jvelto. She found the Oceanlord on a small island, sharing ale with Torodin and a bunch of sea nymphs.
"Father, please help me."
Torodin smiled at his beautiful, dark-haired niece. He grabbed her hand and pulled her into his lap.
"What troubles you niece? Tell your Uncle Torodin all about it."
Jvelto scowled at the amorous god. "Get your hands off my daughter."
"It´s all right father," said Maralah, who was rather fond of Torodin. "I don´t mind."
Torodin grinned smugly at Jvelto, whose scowl deepened. The sea nymphs, seeing the storm clouds gathering overhead, quickly scattered.
"Tell us your problem, dear," said Torodin.
"It´s Niabi. She´s giving children to people who are cruel, or who don´t want them. The children are suffering. I asked her to stop it, and she refused."
Jvelto shrugged his burly shoulders. "Maralah, it is the way of things. Niabi has the right to use her powers as she pleases, as long as she does not violate Estereal´s edicts. We can not force her to be kind."
"But there must be something we can do," Maralah protested. "She will not listen to reason."
Torodin scowled. "She´s just like her mother - selfish and spiteful."
"Brother, watch your tongue. Niabi is merely jealous. "Jvelto, scowled at his brother. He didn´t like hearing either Sharess or his daughter maligned.
"Forgive me," said Torodin, who sincerely regretting offending his favorite brother. "Let me make it up to you - I´ll take Maralah to see Soltana. She is the most likely to sympathize with the problem. In the mean-time, you can summon back the sea nymphs and apologize for scaring them off again."
Jvelto sighed. "They are a flighty bunch. Very well, I agree to your plan."
"Good day, brother. Have fun making it up to the nymphs." Without delay, Torodin took Maralah´s hand and they vanished into the shadows.
The goddess looked around in surprise. They had reappeared not in the Halls of Truth, where Soltana and Estereal dwelled, but in Torodin´s palace of shadows.
"Why are we here?" asked Maralah innocently.
Torodin smiled at the young goddess. "You are angry and distraught - not the right frame of mind for impressing the goddess of love. I thought perhaps I could do something to improve your mood?"
Maralah responded eagerly to Torodin´s embrace. She was very attracted to the handsome god, and she realized that she needed him as an ally. A few hours of passion was a delightful way to ensure his cooperation.
Afterwards, Torodin and Maralah approached Soltana. They found her in her favorite rose garden, where her youngest son Misae was painting her portrait. Soltana greeted her visitors with smile and a fond embrace.
"Torodin, Maralah, I am pleased to see you. What brings you to my garden?"
Torodin returned Soltana´s smile, for he loved his sister dearly. "Maralah needs your help," he said.
"What is it?" Soltana asked.
"It´s for the children," Maralah explained. "Niabi is allowing cruel and abusive people to give birth, and I want her to stop."
Soltana sighed. "I would like to see that, as well. But I am afraid my pleas had little effect upon your sister."
Maralah stared at the elder goddess in astonishment. "She would not listen even to you? Can´t you order her to obey you?"
"No, my dear. Wajen can, to an extent, for Niabi owes her allegiance to the Great Mother. But, for reasons she would not explain, Wajen refused to intervene."
"Why?" Maralah, asked. "Wajen loves the children as much as I do."
"I am sure she has her reasons," soothed Torodin. The Shadowlord alone among the gods knew of Wajen´s secret affair with Othniel, and he guessed that more than a few of Wajen´s actions were the result of private deals with the Soultaker. But, out of both respect for and fear of Wajen, Torodin would never reveal his knowledge.
"Do not forget," he said, "that Wajen is wiser than the rest of us. Perhaps you should give up your plan to reason with Niabi, and find a way to protect the children instead."
"That is a wonderful idea," said Maralah.
Soltana stood. "I agree."
"Mother, please," said Misae, who had paused in mid-stroke. "I´m not finished."
"I´m sorry dear. But we´re going to need your help, too. Here is what we shall do. The four of us shall create a new god - one who will be the protector of the good and the guardian of the innocent. We shall decide his abilities and attributes; Misae, we will need you to paint his portrait as we describe him. When we are finished, I will summon Estereal and persuade him to give life to our creation."
Excited by the prospect, the gods gathered around Misae´s canvass. "We must make him tall, strong and brave, so that he will have the power to fight the cruel and unjust."
"But kind and handsome," Maralah added, "so that the innocent children will come to love and trust him."
Torodin frowned at the handsome god taking shape on Misae´s canvass. In Torodin´s opinion, the last thing the pantheon needed was another gorgeous young god for the goddesses to swoon over.
"We should make this god a woman," he suggested innocently. "After all, women are naturally wiser, kinder and more protective than men."
"He is right," Soltana and Maralah said in unison.
After a brief frown at Torodin, Misae began again. The Shadowlord was quite pleased by the lovely woman that now appeared.
"Give her a shapely figure, long dark hair and blue eyes," Torodin whispered in Misae´s ear.
The god of arts looked at Torodin in confusion. "Whatever for?"
Torodin stared at Misae. For a healthy, young god, he had precious little interest in women. "For the magical paints I´ll create for you in return?"
Misae was quite amenable to that. Soon, the portrait of a lovely, young goddess had been completed.
"I will give the new goddess great healing powers and a loving nature," said Soltana, surveying the painting with pride.
"Wonderful," said Maralah. "I will give her protections, so that she will be safe from the evil powers against which she will do battle."
"I´ll give her a joyous nature and a sense of humor," said Torodin.
The other gods stared at him. Torodin, who realized that designing a fun companion for himself wouldn´t sit well with the others, quickly came up with an excuse.
"She will see much suffering," he explained. "And she will not be able to prevent all of it. I don´t want her to become discouraged."
Satisfied with this explanation, Soltana sent for Estereal.
The One was at first reluctant. He felt that too many new gods was not a good thing, and he was always suspicious of any enterprise that Torodin got involved in; he was not above causing mischief. But when Soltana explained the reasons for created the new goddess, Estereal was very pleased.
"I have often felt that the evil ones take unfair advantage of the young and innocent, drawing many of them into their service through suffering and hardship at a very young age. Soltana, my beloved bride, herself has often said, and I agree, that we as just and kind gods should love all the mortals, the little children especially. For they are sinless, and they live to soften and purify the hearts of mortals, and, in a way, to guide them. There is no place in heaven for those who would bring harm to a child intentionally. Let the children, then, have a protector. I will give life to your creation, and grant her wisdom also, for what guardian can act without wisdom?"
Estereal breathed upon the painting, and the goddess stepped forth from the canvass. She kneeled before Estereal.
"Father," she said, "I am at your service."
Pleased, Estereal raised up the goddess. He created a suit of magical armor, a shield, and a sword for her.
"Hence forth," he proclaimed, "You shall be called Ranevskaya. You shall be the god of Guardianship, to guide and protect those who fight for the good and shield the innocent from harm. Children shall be your special cause, for they are the most innocent among mortals, but you and your worshipers shall watch over all those who are endangered, and who stand up for noble causes."
"Ranevskaya," Torodin muttered, "what kind of a name is that for a beautiful, young goddess?"
Thus was the goddess Ranevskaya born. Though she would always owe her allegiance to Estereal, Maralah would become her closest friend. Much to Torodin´s disappointment, Ranevskaya rejected his advances, instead becoming enamored of the god Tritherion, who would aid her in fighting for noble causes.